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GGR Ford Focus RS - Driving Impression

Many Euros Buy Big Boost

At 90 mph, the benefit of the Graham Goode Racing conversion becomes most obvious. Just as the stock Ford Focus RS starts to feel lethargic, the GGR car takes a deeper breath and propels itself at the horizon with enough thrust to threaten an EVO VIII. And it keeps pulling, all the way past 140 mph until short gearing calls time on the fun.

There will be those who say such high-speed thrust is irrelevant in a road car, but any RS owner will surely disagree. The DNA of the reinvigorated RS brand, which we sadly don't get in the States, dictates that the cars should cater to a dedicated band of driving enthusiasts, and anyone who finds them too extreme can buy an ST instead. The ST, by the way, is Euro-speak for SVT.

It's an engaging strategy, which also means that RS products are ripe for tuning. From the moment the specification of the Focus RS was announced, tuners across Europe started rubbing their hands in anticipation.

"We ordered one as soon as the car was announced," says GGR's technical and engineering manager, Alastair Mayne. "We placed our order almost three years before the car actually arrived and we still ended up with car number 317. I guess lots of people were desperate for a new RS."

Mayne and his company have a long history in tuning performance cars, and Fords in particular. Graham Goode was a successful Touring Car driver in the '80s, and his 450-hp RS500 racer still lives in GGR's workshop.Some of the engineers from the race team are still with the company and this depth of experience is evident in their conversions.

The machined cylinder heads and combustion chambers of the standard car were matched and hand polished, while the inlet and exhaust valve seats were cut to three angles. There have also been some significant changes to the engine's breathing apparatus. A sports catalyst has been introduced in conjunction with a new, fabricated exhaust manifold and a high-flow downpipe. A dual-piston dump valve replaces the original recirculating unit and a bespoke aluminum cold-air induction system takes the place of the standard air filter assembly.

These modifications are relatively simple but, when introduced in conjunction with a reprogrammed ECU, they represent a significant increase in both power and torque. Mayne says the new ECU, which increases the maximum boost pressure from 1 to 1.2 bar, is worth 25 hp, and the mechanical changes liberate an additional 54 hp. He also says the GGR's peak power output at the crank is 285 hp at 5610 rpm, compared with the standard car's 212 hp at 5795 rpm, andthe torque has risen by 74 lb-ft to 296 lb-ft at 4125 rpm.

Changes to the extroverted cabin are limited to new floor mats and much needed water temperature and oil pressure gauges, which have been skillfully integrated into the cubby to the left of the dashboard. The bodywork mods are also subtle, but they succeed in lending the car a more aggressive and determined stance. The new hood, which serves the dual purpose of looking fast and providing additional cooling, is sourced from Cervini.

The new, 19-inch O.Z racing wheels, which come wrapped in Goodyear F1 225/35 tires, are so subtle, they go almost unnoticed, but in combination with a 25mm reduction in the ride height, they produce a significant change in attitude. Those wheels frame AP Racing brake discs and six-piston calipers. There's nothing particularly wrong with the standard RS's anchors, but the GGR system raises the bar by combining enhanced stopping power with a firmer pedal. In the first couple of road miles, it's the brakes and not the engine that grab the attention.

Since the standard RS rides like an unsprung kart, the larger wheels and the uprated H&R springs have a marginal negative effect on the ride quality. And they do have some positive benefits. The turn-in is a little sharper and the steering has more weight, particularly just off-center.

Less impressive is the eccentric behavior of the Quaiffe Automatic Torque-Biasing (ATB) differential, which was specifically developed for the RS. In contrast to a more conventional clutch-type diff, the Quaiffe system uses worm gears to transfer the torque between the two front wheels.

In dry conditions, on a relatively smooth surface, it works exceptionally well and almost eradicates power understeer. But in less ideal conditions, it starts to struggle. Dropping the outside tire onto a greasy centerline, for example, tends to confuse the diff and create armfuls of steering tug. On a bumpy road, where the grip levels of each tire are constantly changing, the RS becomes a real handful and a determined grip on the wheel is required if you're to maintain a steady trajectory.

The extra power of the GGR system exaggerates these properties and the company has also removed the electronic system that limits the torque to 170 lb-ft in the first two gears.

On a smooth racetrack, however, the diff is able to work its magic and the tuned Focus comes alive. GGR claims its Focus sprints from 0-to-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, compared with 6.4 seconds for the standard car, and that it reaches 100 mph after 13.3 seconds (15.5 stock). Subjective impressions cast little doubt on either figure and the engine's flexibility is particularly impressive. There's decent pull from as little as 1500 rpm and a steep change in acceleration as full boost arrives at 2700 rpm.

It also sounds delicious. The exhaust note is deeper than before, but the main change to the soundtrack results from the addition of an atmospheric dump valve. Lift off the throttle and there's a telltale "whoosh" as the excess gases are dispatched through the new hood louvers. It sounds terrific and serves as a reminder that you're driving something special.

The GGR certainly needs to be special, considering the conversion costs a hefty $15,291. Both of the Ford's Japanese rivals, the STi and Evo, deliver a purer driving experience and are a more sophisticated choice, but neither offers the exclusivity of the GGR. For track day fans or for those who must have the ultimate incarnation of everything, the GGR has plenty of draw. Too bad those of us in America must admire it from afar.

Type Inline four, iron block,
aluminum head, turbocharged
and charge-cooled
Internal Modifications Standard engine internals,
cylinder head ported and
polished, inlet and exhaust
valve seats cut to three
angles, combustion chambers
polished and matched
External Modifications : GGR spun aluminium cold-air
induction system in place of
standard air filter assembly,
GGR fabricated tubular
extractor exhaust manifold,
GGR high-flow exhaust
downpipe with nonrestrictive
sports catalytic converter,
Mongoose cat-back exhaust
system, fabricated charge
cooler to throttle body pipe
with GGR dual-piston dump
valve, replacement water and
turbo hoses in three-layer blue
silicone, fabricated polished
aluminum reservoirs for
coolant, power steering fluid
and charge cooler coolant
Engine Management Mods Original Ford EECV engine
management system
reprogrammed with unique
fuel, ignition and boost
control parameters
Layout Transverse front engine,
front-wheel drive with
Quaife ATB mechanical
limited-slip differential
Drivetrain Modifications ND twin-plate clutch,
4.11:1 final drive
Front Original dampers with
H&R springs
Rear Original dampers with
H & R springs
Front Unique GGR conversion
consisting of 343mm x 32mm
grooved and vented AP racing
discs with AP racing six-pot
Rear Original solid rear brake discs
and single-piston calipers
Wheels 19 x 8-in. O.Z Racing
Superleggera wheels
Tires Goodyear F1 225/35 ZR-19
Body Glass fiber vented hood,
Ford Custom stainless-steel
radiator grille, black plastic
surrounds removed from front
spot lamps
Interior Original dashboard display,
with additional Unique GGR
combined water temperature
and oil pressure gauge, GGR
floor mats
Engine conversion $6,741
GGR brake conversion $3,718
GGR suspension kit $663
19-in. O.Z wheels and tires $3,161
GGR instrumentation pack $1,008
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